On 17 June at around 1200, in high winds and heavy 6m seas, the container ship MOL Comfort suffered a crack amidships and began taking on water. The vessel was approximately 200 miles from the Yemini coast at while en route from Singapore to Jeddah. The vessel later suffered a catastrophic hull failure and split in two, with containers being lost overboard.

The crew, which was made up of 14 Filipinos, 11 Russians and a Ukrainian, managed to evacuate the vessel on two life rafts. According to India’s IANS News, the Indian Coast Guard in Mumbai diverted three vessels to the area, with the 2002-built containership Yantian Express first to arrive on scene and rescue the survivors.

After the catastrophic structural failure, both sections of the hull initially remained afloat, with the majority of the 7,041teu still on board, and began drifting in an east-north-east direction. The vessel’s owner, the Japanese line Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL), quickly appointed SMIT and Nippon Salvage to manage the situation, and they in turn despatched four deep sea tugs to the scene to assist with salvage.

On 24 June at 1700 local time, the tug Capricorn managed to attach a towline to the forward section and commence the towing operation. On 26 June the tug Karar, with Pacific Terrier in assistance, reached the aft section, but were unable to attach a line as the section was rolling in heavy seas. The following day the aft section sank in 4,000m of open water.

MOL advised that approximately 1,700 containers were aboard this section, with some floating near the site after the sinking. About 1,500 metric tons of fuel oil was estimated to be aboard in the tanks of the aft part, but no large volume of oil leakage occurred. MOL Comfort was completed in 2008 as APL Russia and was one of a series of six of post-panamax 316m vessels owned by MOL. To date MOL Comfort is the largest containership to be lost at sea. AM

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